Intermarriage and Reality TV

Reality dating shows are, in general, a train wreck. Especially dating shows in which people compete for another person’s affection. Everyone is forced to act “natural” in front of a camera while they connive and back stab their way into the heart of either the man or woman at the center of the show. Kind of makes you yearn for simpler times when parents made all the decisions in love.

Perhaps that’s what gave NBC the idea for their newest dating show, Momma’s Boys. The premise is this: Three men compete for the love and affection of a pool of women, with a catch. The men are momma’s boys, and their moms are along for the ride, watching and offering their opinions the whole time.

It so happens that Rob and Esther, one of the mother/son combinations, are Jewish. And this has, for better or for worse, brought out issues of interfaith relationships. Only one of the girls the men can choose from, Lauren, is Jewish. But Rob doesn’t think he has chemistry with Lauren. He likes Camille. Esther thinks Lauren is the only girl Rob should pursue a relationship with because she’s Jewish. This all came to a head in a recent episode in which the three male contestants had to throw Christmas and Hanukkah parties. It was at the end of this episode when Esther laid out, in no uncertain terms, her thoughts on Rob’s future. According to various online episode summaries, Esther said Camille isn’t “good enough” for Rob because she isn’t Jewish, and that’s the end of the story as far as she is concerned. Part of Esther’s outlook, it’s explained, comes from the fact that her parents are holocaust survivors who rebuilt their lives in America.

We have here the two basic sides to the intermarriage argument: Esther thinks that marrying in is the only way for Rob to properly nurture his future children’s Jewish identity and honor his family’s traditions. Rob doesn’t believe he needs to forsake his feelings for another just to marry a Jewish woman. How will it end? Will Rob succumb to his mom’s pressure (which is possible since the show is about momma’s boys), or will he make his own decision?

Admittedly, reality TV, with its manipulative editing to achieve the most sensationalistic results, is not the ideal place to see this debate carried out. But for those watching who might find themselves in a similar situation, it’s a place to start. In that respect, we are glad these issues are raised and we’re interested to see how this dynamic plays out as the show goes on.

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